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Most Blog Readers Don’t Care they are Reading a Blog

One of the problems of immersing yourself in any one sub-group of people is that it’s very easy to lose the bigger picture.

This happens in many areas of life but is true for bloggers and more specifically for those who are active in the ‘Pro Blogging’ part of the overall blogging community.

One of the traps that it’s easy to fall into as a blogger is to think that your readers care that they are reading a blog.

While there is definitely a growing percentage of the wider population that know what a blog is and that would intentionally seek them out to read – the vast majority of web users either are blissfully unaware of blogs or if they do know about them couldn’t give two hoots about them.

In my experience what web users DO care about is getting relevant and quality information quickly.

Whether they find it on a forum, a static web page or on a blog doesn’t concern them.

What worries me as I surf through many blogs each day is that there seem to be quite a few bloggers (and some blog networks) who in my mind are a little obsessed with reminding their readers that they are on a blog. While there is nothing wrong with educating readers about blogging occasionally I suspect in most cases readers don’t really care and that constantly reminding them of the fact that they are on a blog is something that can actually work against you.

This was illustrated to me a few months ago when after being Slashdotted I read the comments thread on the post that had linked to me there and was very amused by the fact that quite a few readers were paying out blogs but were completely unaware that their beloved Slashdot was in fact a blog itself. When some pointed this out to them there was a shock among some who said that they’d never considered Slashdot to be a blog because it had never promoted itself as such.

Instead of promoting itself as a blog as such, Slashdot works hard at presenting itself as a space where nerds get news about ‘stuff that matters’.

I listened to an interesting podcast this morning with Jeremy Wright and Tyme White where they picked up on this theme for a few minutes towards the end of their conversation. In it they talked a little about how many blogs and blog networks seem to be writing for other bloggers but are perhaps missing the bigger market of ‘non-bloggers’ who are not as technologically minded or web savvy but who just want information about the stuff they love.

I think their observation is correct. While I’m not suggesting bloggers need to dumb down their blogging I think the mind-shift of moving from writing for other bloggers to writing for ‘normal people’ (I can see bloggers everywhere scrolling down to the comments section after that phrase) is one worth making for most bloggers.

This means getting out of our own little Pro Blogging Ghetto and learning to communicate with others in ways that are accessible and smart – otherwise we limit the potential for our success.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Carl says:

    I’m not really surprised on this one, if you have typed into a search engine your search term and it comes up with a website, whether it be blog forum or static content based website, as long as the information appears to be accurate does it matter.

    Also, what is a blog to me? The way I see it is a website that is easier to update!

  2. I’ve tried to cut down on the word “blog” itslf to avoid the dreaded blog ads in AdSense. I’ve even scrapped my bl*g, Tertiary Bl*gging, to move away from this. I don’t think blogs play much with the wider population. Internet Information Provider, or InPro, is a much better term. InPro or blog? I know which I prefer. :-)

  3. Brian says:

    Great point… On my blogs that are not aimed at bloggers, I never use the word. It’s the subject matter that, uh… matters.

  4. Sometimes I think that Blogging has a negative connotation to people that aren’t into it. When I have a conversation with non bloggers about it they seem to think that a blog is nothing more than an online diary that people use to talk about they’re daily life. I’m composing a theme for my site right now and I’m making a conscious effort to make it look less blog like.

  5. Recently an executive at a large company asked, “What is a blog?” and the response by the person that was in charge of emergining technology was, “A blog is a personal journal.”

    I almost choked.

    I had to step in and tell them that a blog was a tool for easily publishing information to the web. That it was a tool that could be used to create a controlled or semi-controlled arena for directed and/or interactive communication. That the ease of publishing with blog tools allowed more people to make more information available. That the combination of ease of use, interactivity, portability, search, and replicating content potential created a new communication environment, new channels and a new way to look at the world. That even if “blogging” was not something to be embraced immediately in an official capacity, it was certainly something that needed to be monitored.

    Then I wiped the foam from my mouth and stumbled out into the night.

    No, but seriously, the term blog confuses non-technical people because they immediatly think of a diary or mad political ranting. When you tell them that a blog is a tool that makes it simple for any non-technical person to publish a website and keep it updated, they start to see the bigger picture. When you show them that they look at blogs and aggregators everyday without even knowing it they start to get it. Then they ask, “Well isn’t that just the internet?” and you say, “Yes.”

  6. Paul -V- says:

    A few days ago, I noticed a some traffic coming from a forum that was discussing a political topic. One of my articles was being used to bolster one of the points.

    The conversation between the two debaters was interesting, but then one of them wrote: “Hey, I just noticed that you can’t use this; it’s only a blog!”

    This was the first time I was a bit offended by anything anyone has ever said about my work. “Only a blog” ???!!!

    That particular article was meticulously researched and I cross-referenced legal documents… I was taken aback that anyone would ignore a perfectly good article just because it was “only” published on a blog.

    Since then, I’ve been curious if most readers care or not that the information they get is on a blog or not.

    I now have my answer.

    Thanks Darren.

  7. Amy Gahran says:

    Great post, Darren.

    I agree, there’s quite a bit of “blog myopia” going on, as if blogs are important in and of themselves. In my estimation, blogs are just part of a much larger and more important phenomenon: conversational media

    That is, what makes blogs important is that they foster various kinds of public (one-to-many) conversations, rather than rehash the old “I speak, you listen” publishing model.

    There are other types of conversational media too: E-mail lists, forums, chat — even talk radio. All of these tools will continue to evolve toward expanding and honing how we can use conversation, I think. Because, after all, people do talk.

    Conversational media will continue to grow in relevance and popularity long after blogs are passe, I think.

    I’ve been covering this extensively in http://Contentious.com and in my new blog, http://RightConversation.com, which examines what’s happening in conversational media. I’d be curious to hear whether this perspective resonates with you.

    Best,

    - Amy Gahran
    RightConversation.com
    Contentious.com

  8. Amy Gahran says:

    Um, I meant to say “many to many” in my previous comment, obviously :-)

    Also, regarding people who dismiss or denigrate blogs as a whole: Last year I wrote “What’s a blog? Bag the stereotypes” to spell out and directly counter the most commin myths I keep encountering:
    - http://snipurl.com/exxq

    - Amy Gahran
    Contentious.com
    RightConversation.com

  9. Katie Nelson says:

    I always appreciate your posts here. I have a question and I wasn’t sure how else to send it to you. I have a website at http://www.scrapbooklady.org/index.html
    and a couple of blogs to go along with the content there
    http://scrapbooklady.blogspot.com/ &
    http://quotestoremember.blogspot.com/

    I had a “dream” situation present itself today and I’m not sure how to handle it. An ad rep for a very large scrapbook company sent me an email asking if I would be interested in running advertising for his client. They wanted to place banner ads on my site that they currently run on some large scrapbooking sites.

    So far I have only done advertising through affiliate programs so I have no idea what to charge for this and they did not mention a price. They wanted me to send them my “advertising policy.” Do you have any resources for this or suggestions for me?

    Thanks!
    Katie the Scrapbook Lady

  10. Ash Buckles says:

    Blog or no blog, anticipated and relevant information is key. However, it may be necessary to remind your readers how to subscribe so that newbies can more easily get involved. I often reference new blogs from the blogs I read frequently, and without reminding me to subscribe, I may not subscribe because my mind is elsewhere — lost in the discussion.

    My newer professional blog is at http://bridesclub.typepad.com and my readers don’t care anything about it being a “blog.” As long as I’ve got interesting news, articles, tips, etc. they love it. I’m still working to ensure they love it. But the incoming traffic has shot up from 20-30 visitors daily to over 300 in just one month. The one change that made the most difference so far is adding my most popular blog categories to my home page at http://www.bridesclub.com. This way they can click on Blog in my top navigation, or choose a category for more information (which takes them to my blog for that category page).

  11. Tim King says:

    Fascinating! I always considered blogs to be periodical publication media, like newsfeeds. (A newsfeed is a blog? Ask the guys over at slashdot.) Yes, there are personal blogs that are little more than public journals. And most of the professional blogs are proprietorships. But other blogs are organized, collective efforts. (Like Blogcritics.org.) And that’s not even getting to podcasts (audio blogs) and video blogs.

    If you simply bring up these counter-examples in the context of “a blog is a personal journal,” whoever you’re talking to not only will get the point but also will probably become interested in the rich content available in blogs.

    -TimK

  12. Jeremy says:

    Hmm… this post actually kinda scares me a bit. I have a blog that is actually titled Office Humor Blog and has the URL http://www.officehumorblog.com. Apparently, this may be a bad thing, labeling the site a blog. I don’t write about it being a blog, my posts never say anything about it being a blog, and other than the title and url (granted those are 2 huge labeling mechanisms), my site doesn’t try to force people into the whole “Blog” reading mentality.

    Hmm… really wondering if it was a bad idea to choose that name and url now :(

  13. Darren Rowse says:

    Don’t worry too much about it Jeremy. I have a blog called ‘Digital Photography Blog’ which does ok.

    I probably wouldn’t have called it that if I was starting all over again – but it’s like that now and changing it would be a nightmare.

  14. Duncan says:

    I cant remember the exact survey (there was probably more than one) where people were tracked and many said they didn’t read blogs whereas 3/4 of the ppl who said this did read blogs but didn’t realise they were reading blogs. Content is the key.

  15. L says:

    Although, I would get rid of that green on the “low” words. Ouch. (I felt I must help.)

  16. L says:

    Although, I would get rid of that green on the “low” words. Ouch. (I felt I must help.) (The site looks great, other than that.)

  17. Anthony says:

    I think that part of the confusion about what constitutes a blog comes from the fact that most blogging software is just a really simple to use CMS. Some people use the software to publish a personal journal, some use it as a CMS. Some seem to use blog software because it’s the easiest way for them to implement an RSS feed.

    Really, besides the sophistication of the CMS functions, what’s the difference between what would be considered a news site and what would be considered a blog? Unabashed personal bias?

  18. Jeremy says:

    Ahh, thanks Darren. Completely forgot that your photography blog has the word “blog” in it! You talk about it a lot so I assume it does pretty well for you, so I won’t worry as much now, thanks!

    I will definitely keep it in mind if I start up some other blogs though.

  19. Holch says:

    The problem about blogs is the hype which is going around right now. Many people just pick up the word “blog”, get told be someone who doesn’t much better than them what it is and then thinks it’s something stupid… ;-)

    For me a blog is just an easy way to provide peridiodical information. It’s some kind of small CMS. What is different between a blog or a hand coded website? You could do exactly the same, but now it is much easier.

    Regards,
    Holger

  20. Deborah says:

    I’ve tried to explain what blogs are to my family and friends. Their eyes just glaze over before they change the subject. Now, if I’d told them that I write online newsletters, that might have piqued their interest.

  21. pcunix says:

    I agree, except for one minor point:

    One of the differences between most blogs and traditoonal web sites is what their home page looks like. A blog usually presents current articles or at least excerpts from same, while a traditional site presents an index page, which may be of current articles or might point to various sections.

    My home page is an index style of current articles. I do have a bloggish page people can go to if they want, but I have had people who are used to reading blogs become totally confused by my home page: they’ve actually told me they had no idea what it “meant” – they didn’t know what to do! Conversely, I’ve had old timers look at thye bloggish page and be equally confused – they don’t see an index, so they don’t know what to do.

    I think most people probably grok either format, and prefer one or the other (which is why I offer both, of course). But some people get confused if they don’t see what they are used to.

  22. Amy Gahran says:

    pcunix wrote: “A blog usually presents current articles or at least excerpts from same, while a traditional site presents an index page, which may be of current articles or might point to various sections.”

    Hmmm, sounds like the same thing to me.

    Anyway, let’s not lose sight of the bigger point here: That a lot of people ahve read blogs without being aware of that — and that’s fine because blogs are not the point. And anyway, in a year or two blogs will be passe as we move on to the next bold move in conversational media, whatever that may be. No point in getting too attached to one tool, format, or buzzword.

    IMHO, of course :-)

    - Amy Gahran
    Contentious.com
    RightConversation.com

  23. Kelly says:

    I love your blog but there is one thing you repeat that is killing me !!

    here is a snip from this post….”it’s very easy to loose the bigger picture”.

    The correct spelling is “lose”

    You are too smart to keep making this mistake……I had to speak up..SRY

  24. Darren Rowse says:

    thanks Kelly – appreciate the feedback. Fixed that one and will look out for more loose spelling.

  25. Amy Gahran says:

    Sorry I offended your sensibilities Kelly. Typing fast here, and the font for this blog shows up in my browser as very narrow and hard-to-read, and there is no preview function for comments submitted to this blog.

    - Amy Gahran

  26. pcunix says:

    Amy Gahran Said

    ———-:

    pcunix wrote: “A blog usually presents current articles or at least excerpts from same, while a traditional site presents an index page, which may be of current articles or might point to various sections.”

    Hmmm, sounds like the same thing to me.

    ——–

    But it’s not the same thing at all.

    For example: http://aplawrence.com/index.html and http://aplawrence.com/Blog/index.html

    The first is a traditional web site – an index of available articles. Actually, originally most sites would list sections on the index page (assuming a large site) and might have a “Newest Articles Page” which would list links to the newest postings.

    The second is bloggish: the most recent articles are actually presented (in this case the first paragraph; I have another page that does the same thing but with complete text from each post)

    My point was that I have had people used to blogs be completely confused by the old fashioned index page – they didn’t understand why they weren’t seeing what they are used to seeing. To me, that seems incredible, but I’ve had more than one person say the same thing. On the other hand, some old fashioned types have objected to the blog-style page (I did the main index that way for a while as a test) and found that confusing – they didn’t want to “read down”, as they said.

    This kind of reaction leaves me unsure what to do – I tried running a poll to see what percent of people have a preference, but got insufficient response to draw any conclusions except what I already know: some people will be confused or upset no matter what I do.

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  28. Do you write the articles yourself or do you get somebody to write out your ideas for me? As when i tried blogging I was nowhere near this good!

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